I was running late for work. Quickly, I pressed PRINT to start my breakfast of bacon eggs and toast as I ran past. By the time I was dressed, it was sitting, piping hot, in the out trays. Changing the cartridges to print lunch, I sat down to gulp down my breakfast. Lunch today was pastrami on rye with mustard and an apple for the afternoon.
It was a busy day and passed quickly. A brisk walk home through the park would clear my head nicely, I thought, as I headed out the door. The park was not far. At the end of the day it tended to be pretty quiet. Most people preferred their walks and picnics earlier in the day. I took a slightly different route to usual. A change would do me good. Clear the cobwebs and frustration of a day where nothing seemed to go right and nothing had been achieved as a result. The day’s weariness caught up with me. That was when I spotted it in the distance. It seemed to beckon to me. I couldn’t resist it’s call. Surrounded by a serene, flower jeweled garden, the park bench was just the spot to sit and relax for a while.
Deep in thought, I’d not noticed when the old man had come along and sat next to me. Glancing at him, I nodded briefly and half smiled, hoping he’d take the hint. I wasn’t in the mood for chit chat. His twinkling blue eyes, crinkled at the edges, looked quizzically at me. He nodded, smiled, settled himself into a more comfortable position. Great, I thought, he’s going to stay. And want to talk! Resigned to some unwanted social chit chat, I sighed, waiting for him to start. It didn’t take long.
You look tired, he said.
Been a busy day.
Hmmm, I see. Nice spot to stop and rest a bit.
I smiled and nodded.
You hungry, he asked, as he opened his bag. I’ve got some really special food here. Probably something you’ve never seen, let alone tasted.
Really? I wasn’t too keen on the thought of sharing some random stranger’s weird food. I’d heard stories about this sort of thing happening. There were even increasing numbers of warnings put out by The Food Industry Watchdog about it.
I’d grown up on printed food. My pantry was neatly stacked and stocked to bursting with all sorts of exotic foods. I could print up a gourmet five course meal with the press of a button. No fuss or bother. It came in vacuum sealed packages stored in flat boxes that fitted neatly into my purpose built pantry cupboard. Each box contained all the individual concentrates for a full meal. All I had to do was load the cartridges into the multi-drawer home bench top food printer. It was compact and neat. The very latest model. An endless variety of meals made sure I didn’t get bored of eating the same old stuff all the time. My two door six shelf pantry cupboard housed a years’ supply. It’s automated electronic sensor kept tabs of the contents and put in regular monthly orders to top up supplies. Dinner ware was edible too.
As a child I had heard horror stories of people having to cook their food on a stove and even wash dishes! We’d had a school outing once to an antiques museum were we were shown what life was life in the 21st century. What a horrible way to live! Even clothes had to be sewn, washed and ironed. I couldn’t imagine having to live like that. Thank goodness for the advances in technology.
Would you like to taste some, he asked, jerking me back from my wandering thoughts. The old man was munching on something that looked a lot like an apple but it was dripping some sort of liquid.
It’s perfectly safe you know. Regardless of what the authorities say, home grown food is not poisonous. I’ve been eating it all my life and I’m fit as a fiddle. Never been sick in my life and I’m 90 years old! I’ve got another one here. They’re stone fruit. It’s called a nectarine. I grow them in my backyard.
Curiosity got the better of me, so I nodded and held out my hand. It felt soft. Holding it up to my nose, I sniffed it. A strange, sweet smell made my mouth water. Startled, I went to hand it back to him. There were warnings about not eating anything that did that. They said the mouth watering was caused by a toxic coating on the food. I just hoped it wasn’t too late. That I hadn’t been contaminated yet. Oh Lord, how stupid! I knew better than to smell strange foods.
Laughing, he shook his head. No, no, you have it! Did your mouth water?
Heart thumping in fear, I nodded.
Yeah, mine does every time too. It’s the anticipation of eating it and the sweet smell always does it to me. They are so delicious. See – I’m still here and talking aren’t I? Try it. You’ll be fine.
Hesitatingly, I raised the strange fruit to my mouth and bit into it. It was so wet. Liquid dripped down my chin. My mouth was filled with the sweetest, most delicious flavoured softness I had ever tasted. I think my taste buds were dancing in glee! I slurped the fruit water, which I later learned was called juice, and licked my hands. And sucked every bit of taste off the hard stone in the middle that he told me not to eat.
Smiling from ear to ear, he watched in delight as I savoured the deliciousness. I had to know more! I just had to find out where and how I could get more of this forbidden fruit of the gods!
The old man and I became really good friends. I visit him every week. In exchange for the pleasure of helping him in his garden, he gives me fresh fruit and vegetables. I never knew food – real food – could be so wonderfully delicious. And that gardening was even better than sitting on the park bench.
This story was written in response to Sandbox Challenge 37
The idea for it came from an article in our local paper this week – “Printed food, read all about it.” Yes, for real! There is a company here which is developing technology to do just that! I quote – “… his concept would involve taking raw ingredients such as cauliflower and producing 10 – 20 tonnes of cauliflower puree in one production run at its UHT plant……. The cauliflower puree could then be used in a 3D food printer to print cauliflower florets, to emulate a piece of cauliflower……. allowing production and packaging of long-life, natural, fresh food….certain foods would then need to be reheated or cooked to make sure they eat better…….”
I don’t know what to say ?! What do you think – is it progress ?
(C) Raili Tanska